Fifty-five years after the publication of the first book in C. S. Lewis’ beloved The Chronicles of Narnia series—and somewhat against the late author’s wishes (more on that later)—writer-director Andrew Adamson brought the fantastical tales of the Pevensie kids’ adventures in the land of Narnia to life in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Here are 11 magical facts about the hit film.
1. C. S. LEWIS DIDN’T WANT TO SEE THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA ADAPTED FOR THE SCREEN.
Given the series’ many fantastical elements, C. S. Lewis had no desire to see The Chronicles of Narnia books adapted for film or television. And he famously told an inquisitive little kid so in 1957. In response to a letter asking if he could adapt the books for television, Lewis responded that, “They'd be no good on TV. Humanized beasts can't be presented to the eye without at once becoming either hideous or ridiculous. I wish the idiots who run the film world realize that there are stories are for the ear alone.” The author did, however, include the film rights as part of his estate. And after seeing what could be accomplished with CGI, Douglas Gresham—Lewis’ stepson and literary executor—agreed to sell the film rights Walden Media.
“I don’t think Jack was too worried about what would happen after his life,” Gresham told CBN. “I think he felt responsible for what happened during his own lifetime. And what happens after I’m gone is not really my responsibility either. It’s like selling a house. You sell the house and move out. The fact that someone comes in and paints it bright purple or something is no longer you’re problem. But I’m doing my best to protect Jack’s works in this time when I’m alive and to do as much as I can to prepare for the time when the copyrights run out on them and people can do whatever they want ... But I know he hated the idea of someone making a Mickey Mouse version of Narnia.”
2. COMPARISONS TO THE LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY ARE INEVITABLE, AND WARRANTED.
Over the years, many people have noticed similarities between the both themes and elements of The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings series—and with good reason. In addition to being close friends, Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien were both members of The Inklings, a group of writers and academics at Oxford University who would gather together on a weekly basis to discuss each other’s work. Strangely, Tolkien didn’t seem to be a fan of Lewis’ series, once commenting (though rather ambiguously) that, “It is sad that Narnia and all that part of C.S.L.'s work should remain outside the range of my sympathy, as much of my work was outside his.”
3. GUILLERMO DEL TORO WAS THE STUDIO’S FIRST CHOICE TO DIRECT THE FILM.
When it came to choosing a director for the film, Walden Media went straight to Guillermo del Toro, who was interested—but had one major problem with the story: he didn’t want to see Aslan (a.ka. The Lion) resurrected. “Believe it or not, I was the first filmmaker they approached and I said I didn't want the f*cking lion to be resurrected,” del Toro told The Guardian. “What is the worth of that sacrifice if he knows he's coming back? I really enjoy the uncertainty of a guy or a creature going to die for something without knowing if there's anyone to bail him out.”
One other thing del Toro took issue with? “I also said I didn't want Father Christmas on my call sheet. M. Night Shyamalan was also approached about directing the original film in the series.
4. ANDREW ADAMSON’S GOAL WAS TO PAY TRIBUTE TO ONE’S MEMORY OF THE BOOK.
The film’s eventual director, Andrew Adamson, had vivid memories of reading the books as a child, and it was that part of the experience that he wanted to capture with the film. When asked by Dark Horizons whether it was important to him to remain faithful to the book in his adaptation, he answered, “Yes and no. I actually set out really not to make the book so much as my memory of the book because I realized in reading the book as an adult that it was kind of like the house that you grew up in, much smaller than I remembered. And I wanted to catch the more epic story that I remembered which I think was expanded by my experiences over 30 years, by the fact that I had read all seven books, and that the world had actually expanded C. S. Lewis in writing all seven books.”
5. TILDA SWINTON WANTED TO SUBVERT “MOVIE WITCH” STEREOTYPES.
For Tilda Swinton, saying yes to the role of the White Witch, “was really easy and I can't quite work out why,” she told MovieWeb. “Maybe it was my revenge on people who had been unkind to me as a child. But it was very easy and a thrill to freeze up children.” When it came to finding her character, Swinton said that both she and Adamson, “shared very early on that neither of us had had been convinced by the cackling, shouting, hot-under-the-collar witches that we'd been exposed to as children. They hadn't frightened us. It occurred to me that since this is not a human witch, this is the epitome of all evil. It's like a free pass with any kind of nonsense you can come up with. It doesn't have to add up. What children, in fact all of us at any age, find frightening is unreliability and emotional coldness. The idea that you can't affect someone, that you can't see where they're coming from and can change tact at any moment.”
6. ADAMSON KEPT A LOT OF SECRETS.
To maintain a certain level of authenticity in his actors, particularly the young ones, Adamson kept many of the sets and costume designs under wraps until it was time for the cameras to roll. Among the DVD extras is the very first scene in which Lucy (Georgie Henley) meets Mr. Tumnus (James McAvoy). “They hadn't actually told me anything about his appearance, so when I first saw him, I screamed,” recalled Henley, who made her big-screen debut in the film. “Well, I had to scream anyway, because it was in the script, but I screamed anyway, because he was in horns and a tail and had his fur and stuff. It was pretty surreal.”
7. GETTING INTO CHARACTER WAS A LONG AND PAINFUL PROCESS FOR JAMES MCAVOY.
As a fan of the book series, and Mr. Tumnus in particular, playing the faun was “a big honor” for James McAvoy—but one that came with a price. Each day, the actor spent three hours in the makeup chair in order to have his wig, beard, eyebrows, body hair, and prosthetics (including radio-controlled ears) applied. But in order to turn the lower half of his body into a goat, McAvoy wore a pair of “lovely furry hot pants” over green tights so that his legs could be added in post-production, which also meant that he had to act on tiptoe. “I tried stilts, stilettos, and high-heeled trainers to make it easier to put goat's legs on me,” McAvoy told The Daily Record. “But the best way was for me to walk on my tiptoes with my knees bent and hunched over.”
8. SOME OF MCAVOY’S SALARY ENDED UP IN A SWEAR JAR.
In the midst of such an effects-heavy production, it’s understandable that the adult members of the cast and crew might have occasion to let an obscenity fly. But Georgie Henley was having none of it. So she set up a swear jar. According to the DVD commentary, plenty of people ended up donating to the jar, including Skandar Keynes (who played Edmund). But McAvoy was the clear winner, from day one.
“I'd been crying all day for this scene and had a cold,” McAvoy explained of the first day of filming. “I was wearing a gelatin nose to make my nostrils look like a goat’s. There was snot because of the cold, then I was crying so there was extra snot, building up there. My nose started to melt, I pushed it back on with my finger and it came off. I went 'f*** it’—in this eight-year-old's face. I was mortified and to teach me a lesson she made the Potty Mouthed Bucket and I had to put four New Zealand dollars in it.”
9. SKANDAR KEYNES HIT A MAJOR GROWTH SPURT.
Knowing that the kid actors would grow and change over the course of filming was part of the reason Adamson chose to shoot the film in chronological order. But he couldn’t have predicted Skandar Keynes’ growth spurt. “The kids were going to grow, there was nothing I could do about that … even though we joked about getting Skandar [Keynes, who plays Edmund] to start smoking,” Adamson joked during a press event. “He grew six inches from when I cast him to when I finished the film.” When Keynes’ voice began to change, the filmmakers brought in his sister to re-record some of his dialogue.
10. ASLAN PUSHED THE LIMITS OF TECHNOLOGY.
Aslan, the titular lion who is voiced by Liam Neeson, was entirely computer generated. And if you’re wishing he had more screen time, consider this: it took approximately 10 hours to render each frame of him that appears on screen.
11. BRIAN COX WAS ORIGINALLY THE VOICE OF ASLAN.
In early 2005, it was announced that the award-winning character actor had left the production. Though rumors swirled that a recent weight loss had led to a change in Cox’s voice, the actor’s publicist stated that, “Brian left the production because of scheduling conflicts.” Ian McKellen, Sean Bean, Gerard Butler, and Ralph Fiennes were all reportedly considered for the role before Neeson was brought in.